“No Nation Building” ==> “Let’s Build Democracies!” Rinse. Repeat.

From George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Donald Trump, we have seen candidate after candidate attest that we should not wade into the affairs of other countries only to argue as president why we must and then do it whether the argument compels or not.

In reviewing some old notes, I found in a May 2017 document a “What to Watch Out For” (#WTWOF) to myself: (read more)

Say what you want about Jeff Sessions…

170111_pol_sessions-hearing-jpg-crop-promo-xlarge2Start at 3:13 – you can speed it up too…I remembered this back-and-forth but I had forgotten that Sessions actually acknowledges Congress’s role in war-making. What Panetta is saying-without-saying-it is that he considers treaties to trump the Constitution. This can be argued given what seems to be ambiguity in the language in the Constitution, but I would argue that our government has no authority to enter into treaties that violate our foundational law or that commit our government to actions beyond the scope of their authority as granted by the Constitution. Here is the language in Article VI:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution* or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

*This could be ambiguous, saying that Judges must hold to Treaties, the Constitution notwithstanding, but it actually means state Constitutions and state laws notwithstanding.
The Tenth Amendment Center says even this interpretation goes too far: Do Treaties Trump the Constitution. (In that post they make the great point that the Constitution is a contract requiring a meeting of the minds, so the understanding of those who ratified it is what really governs interpretation.)
I think Panetta et al are operating under entirely different assumptions, and as I read in PEACE, from the wonderful people who brought you Korea and Viet Nam, our silence on this distinction is tantamount to consent.

McMaster DOES Need Senate Confirmation After All

mcmasterThe circus act that was National Security Advisor Flynn’s record-breaking rise and fall surely had some purpose. My guess was it was to get a controversial pick into the role and when John Bolton was floated as a possible replacement alongside the toxic, scandal-ridden generals Alexander and Petraeus, I thought he was the real choice. Then McMaster happened, which actually made sense because Bolton too is toxic (though not too toxic for Trump–he’ll be back) & like the old Sesame Street skit, in a game of “which one of these four don’t belong,” high profile, polarizing personalities like Bolton, Alexander & Petraeus fit together, while McMaster (who is he again?) is the odd man out. But is he really?
It’s clear McMaster is as Deep State as they go, fitting right in with James Jones’ statement that there’s a clear chain of command for the National Security Advisor, and it doesn’t include the President (or even anyone in the government!) What also fits in about McMaster is that he so clearly violates the principle of civilian control of the military, and as a very high ranking active member of the military, he needs special approval from the Senate the way putting Mattis in as SecDef required an Act of Congress–signing that law by the way was the first thing Trump did after taking the inaugural oath.
As much as the Meaning of Trump in all its fullness continues to elude me, the real number one tell of the insider-in-office was, is and always will be: More War? All signs point to yes.

#WTWOF: Afghanistan for DynCorp?

What to Watch Out For:
The New York Times recently reported that financier Steve Feinberg would be helping President Trump “assess” US intelligence agencies.

Feinberg was the founder of Cerberus which is the owner of DynCorp, a major IT provider to the US government that got hit hard when Obama started winding down military operations in Afghanistan.
I immediately looked into Trump’s position on Afghanistan and found nothing.
Today, however, I heard on the news that he would be reassessing whether to ramp back up operations there.

Defense Secretary Mattis to decide soon on troop levels in Afghanistan

DynCorp does not seem to be a winning investment for Cerberus–I wonder if that will change. Let’s watch out for that. #WTWOF
Update: Not sure if it’s for DynCorp, but it didn’t take long to re-up in Afghanistan. 82nd Airborne already on way to Afghanistan as Trump mulls more deployments
Update: Another win for DynCorp! Big IT contracts surely to result from Trump’s executive order, Presidential Executive Order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure